The Cloud of Unknowing, mixed media painting, Alexandra Eldridge, 2008
“All are clear, I alone am clouded,” is the first line of the last paragraph in Jung’s final book, his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Quoting Lao-tzu, Jung was expressing what he himself felt most deeply in his own old age. Jung, the 85 year-old ‘sage of Kusnacht’ had begun to experience himself as merging with the archetypal image of the Wise Old Man, in his case with the feelings of one who has known worth and worthlessness, meaning and meaninglessness — both in the world and in his own soul — and who now desires simply to return to an unknowable ground of being.
At the same time that he felt this as a limitation of old age, Jung still felt filled with so much, “plants, animals, clouds, day and night, and the eternal in man.”(MDR) The more uncertain he felt about himself, the more he harbored a feeling of kinship with all things.
If the feeling of kinship with all things is a hallmark of maturity, as a society we are in crisis, hopefully a healing crisis. The old men in charge act out of a sensibility of kin not kinship, and with the desire to exterminate what doesn’t seem to belong inside the magic circle of their own tribal ancestry. A malignant nostalgia has become “the Wall”, built in the service of increasing totalitarian political moves.
And old man Trump’s clarion confusion: “I alone can fix it” could not be further from Lao-tzu’s wise acknowledgement that others become clear as one’s own ego becomes diffuse. Instead, like the Greek Cronos/Saturn, the national idealization of corporate America led by the Trumpist mind-set seeks to swallow up everything in its path, especially the tender and newly emerging.
But on the other hand, Father Time (Cronos/Saturn) always wins the game, and in the end the walls will break down, as they always do. In the Greek story, Cronos wife finally gets so disgusted with him eating up all their divine children that she hides away the last one, Zeus, and gives Cronos a rock to eat instead. At which point, bloated, stuffed, and sick, he violently vomits them all up. Thus the mighty gods of Olympus were barfed into being.
Similarly disgusted, several state Governors recently refused to deploy National Guard troops to patrol the border between Mexico and the U.S., asserting their opposition to the inhumane practice of separating children from their parents. And today, Trump finally succumbed to national outrage and signed an executive order retreating on the policy of separating children from their families at the border, ordering them to be detained together instead.
Whether wisdom has descended and “all are clear, I alone am clouded” or Trump’s move qualifies as a “feeling of kinship with all things” is unlikely. However, it does go to show that the movement from meaninglessness into meaning often does begin with outrage, pure disgust, and taking one’s cue from those gut emotions. If it makes you sick, vomit it up, no matter the mess.